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Higher Education Research Survey

About the survey

The Higher Education Research and Development Survey is the primary source of information gauging the national level research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. The survey collects information on research and development expenditures by field of research and source of funds and also gathers information on types of research and expenses, and headcount of research and development personnel. The survey results help the federal government and others analyze trends and assist in determining research and development priorities. This information also forms the basis of a report which ranks institutions according to their R&D expenditures. For these reasons, it is critical that principal investigators choose the correct type of work.  The first chart below, describes each type of work and also provides examples

Also very important to the information being correct in the HERD report is ensuring the appropriate scientific discipline is selected.   While the ASU Enterprise Research Administration system defaults discipline based on the lead financial unit, the report can be made all the more accurate if the principal investigator can make a specific determination on each project.  The second chart provides a list of the scientific disciplines available for selection.

RAs are encouraged to confirm both the scientific discipline and the type of work with the PI.

Questions may be directed to [email protected].

What type of work are you doing?

The first step is to determine if the work being performed should be classified as Research and Development. In addition to the straightforward examples below, designed to illustrate the different categories of Research (basic, applied, development), the F&A Wizard provides an extensive list of standard and non-standard examples of what can be considered Research in comparison to the ‘Instruction’ and ‘Other’ activity types associated with ASU’s Facilities and Administrative Rate Agreement.

Once it has been determined that the project is appropriately classified as Research, refer to the table below to delineate the type of Research and Development activity:

Type of activityBasic researchApplied researchDevelopment
DefinitionsResearch undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge without any particular application or use in mind.Research conducted to gain the knowledge or understanding to meet a specific, recognized need.The systematic use of the knowledge or understanding gained from research directed toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including the design and development of prototypes and processes.
ExamplesA researcher is studying the properties of human blood to determine what affects coagulation.A researcher is conducting research on how a new chicken pox vaccine affects blood coagulationA researcher is conducting clinical trials to test a newly developed chicken pox vaccine for young children.
A researcher is studying the properties of molecules under various heat and cold conditions.A researcher is investigating the properties of particular substances under various heat and cold conditions with the objective of finding longer-lasting components for highway pavement.A researcher is working with state transportation officials to conduct tests of a newly developed highway pavement under various types of heat and cold conditions.
A researcher is studying the heart chambers of various fish species.A researcher is examining various levels of a toxic substance to determine the maximum safe level for fish in a stream.A researcher has a contract with the U.S. government to design a new stream monitoring system that will incorporate the latest research findings on toxicity levels for fish.
A researcher is studying the social dynamics between captives that are being illegally trafficked.A researcher is looking into the effects of human trafficking in developing nationsA researcher is using past research results to design an international online alert system for human trafficking.
A researcher is studying the factors that go into deciding compensation for higher level management in companies. A researcher is analyzing CEO compensation with stock performance of Fortune 500 companies to do determine if there is any relation.A researcher is creating an educational program on human resource factors that influence stock performance for young companies.
A researcher is studying how tax laws have developed over the yearsA researcher is studying how changes in tax law have affected people in different socioeconomic classesA researcher is working with government officials to develop new measures on how tax laws will impact constituents.
A researcher is identifying causes of abnormalities in posture.   A researcher is studying how different posture abnormalities can be treated with physical therapy.A researcher is working with a hospital to diagnose and correct abnormalities in posture.
A researcher is studying how the brain identifies and reacts to different musical patterns.A researcher is studying the impact of musical instrument instruction on the neuropsychological development of toddlers.A researcher is using music as a way to communicate and teach mentally deficient toddlers.
A researcher is reviewing a court ruling and the decision behind it.A researcher is studying how a court ruling affected a whole generation of peopleA researcher is developing a program to anticipate how different populations may be affected by future court rulings.
A researcher is changing the curvature of the wood on a string instrument and how it impacts sound.A researcher is redesigning a wooden instrument so that it can better project soundA researcher is developing an undergraduate class to teach string wood instrument design and sound optimization techniques.
A researcher is studying how archeological files have been historically maintained throughout time. A researcher is preserving newly found archeological files based on best practices as identified in previous research.A researchers is developing a digital repository that will house and maintain archeological files from around the world.

What scientific discipline does your project fall into?


  • Aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical
  • Bioengineering and biomedical
  • Chemical
  • Electrical, electronic, and communications
  • Industrial and manufacturing
  • Mechanical
  • Metallurgical and materials
  • Other engineering

Physical sciences

  • Astronomy and astrophysics
  • Chemistry
  • Materials science
  • Physics
  • Other physical sciences

Environmental, mathematical and computer sciences

  • Atmospheric sciences and meteorology
  • Geological and earth sciences
  • Ocean and marine sciences
  • Other geosciences, atmospheric and ocean sciences
  • Mathematics and statistics
  • Computer and information sciences

Life sciences

  • Agricultural
  • Biological and biomedical
  • Health sciences
  • Natural resources and conservation
  • Other life sciences

Political, psychology, social sciences and other sciences

  • Anthropology
  • Political sciences and government
  • Psychology
  • Sociology, demopgraphy and population studies
  • Other social sciences
  • Other sciences

Non-science and engineering

  • Education
  • Law
  • Humanities
  • Visual and performing arts
  • Business management and business administration
  • Communication and communication technologies
  • Social work
  • Other non-science and engineering fields